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Address by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Slovenia

Ljubljana, 30. 1. 2017 | speech

Address by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Slovenia.

His Excellency the President of the Republic of Slovenia at the New Year’s reception for the Diplomatic Corps
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

Dear Doyen of the Diplomatic Corps,
Your Excellencies,

I would like to express again my best wishes for the New Year to you all. To all the nations and countries you represent, we wish peace, freedom and progress. On behalf of the Republic of Slovenia, I emphasise our decisive and honest commitment to deepening our friendship and cooperation.

Your Excellencies,
I seize this great opportunity to briefly and clearly state my position on the most important matters.

On the general situation in Slovenia.
Our country is recovering, both economically and socially. I believe that the current political stability should be exploited more ambitiously for the implementation of structural changes, which would enhance the economic development on a lasting basis, including overall security, particularly social. In this respect, Slovenia is moving in the right direction, but slowly.
I think changes should be made with greater haste. Regarding times and conditions that may occur, it is vital for Slovenia to be better prepared for such severe stressful situations as took place in 2008.

In regard to international peace and security.
It is obvious that one quarter of a century after great and promising social changes, which were linked with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, a new, less stable, more uncertain and unpredictable period is starting.
I assess that we have found ourselves in a position in which the accumulated regional and global issues can only be resolved with the joint efforts of the entire international community. I refer to a very sincere dedication to the peaceful solving of disputes and the further integration and cooperation of the entire world. I do not speak about a new division of the spheres of interest. That would denote a return to the old geopolitics, which basically does not bode well. The world of the 21st century deserves something better.

In this global situation I see security as the most important asset requiring our utmost attention. The risk factors are changing and so must our comprehensive response to this challenge. Regarding Slovenia, I repeat my position that we need immediate modernisation of the entire national security system.

As a Member of the European Union and NATO, Slovenia will actively strive to enhance overall trust between all relevant players in the international community. Although I, as the President of the Republic, am certain in my belief that disputes should be solved peacefully, I am also – as the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces – obliged to acknowledge the immediate need for increased investment in the Slovenian Armed Forces and its preparedness for the implementation of domestic tasks and tasks within the military alliance.

On the future of the European Union.
The time has come for the citizens, peoples and countries of the European Union, who believe in the usefulness of European integration, to provide a clear alternative to those who want to return to national policies and even support the dissolution of the European Union. I believe that one such alternative is the pan-European movement for instigation of a new constitutional procedure, which would result in the proposal of a new European Constitution to be adopted by Member States. I know that this seems very bold, but any indecisiveness, any despondency may be fatal.

We have never needed a united and strong European Union as much as we need it now and for the future. Divided we are weak. Only united can we enforce our values and our interests in the changed conditions of the 21st century. On the inside and the outside.

I thus advocate the start of a new constitutional process. I know it may sound almost unreal. However, this is the only way to provide a clear alternative to the present despondency and the rise of nationalist policies.

It must be clearly highlighted that, in the case of the so-called regionalisation within the European Union in the forthcoming years, Slovenia will do everything in its power to remain at its core, next to France and Germany.

On managing relations between the European Union and its neighbouring countries.
A large number of critical situations have recently developed in the area surrounding the European Union, which we are managing relatively poorly at the moment. It is time to find solutions and resolve one crisis after another wisely, thoughtfully, but also much more decisively than in the past, or these crises will prove to be an additional drain upon us, both politically and in terms of security.

Brexit, relations with Russia, implementation of the Minsk II agreement in the Ukraine, dialogue with Turkey, a bolder policy for resolving the Middle East crisis, the issue of addressing and terminating ISIS and other terrorist organisations, the stability of Northern Africa, starting with Libya, and so on.

In short, more problems were generated in recent years than we were able to solve. If we want to focus on the renaissance of the European Union, we must at the same time address and resolve issues in the neighbourhood. I expect more audacious ideas and activities from the common European institutions and Member States’ policies. Slovenia is certainly prepared to participate in this to the best of its abilities.

On Brexit.
When negotiating with the competent European authorities, Slovenia wishes the British government to negotiate a fair agreement to, and for, the mutual benefit of both sides. It is nevertheless imperative that these negotiations do not further hinder the necessary reforms of the European Union and its efficient work.
I do not think of Brexit as a technical issue, but we must not allow it to become an eminent political question, which would take our time, will and energy to enhance the European Union and its successfulness. In the coming years, the European Union must prove to its citizens its usefulness and irreplaceability in terms of their peace, security and prosperity.

On the European currency, the euro.
With other members of the monetary union, Slovenia will strive to intensively continue the promising reforms that started several years ago relating to the monetary and fiscal union. There are no convincing reasons for their delay. The common currency is one of the greatest achievements of the joint European policy and its consolidation must be intensified and continued.

On common refugee policy.
It was demonstrated that only a uniform or a common refugee policy can prevent the disintegration of the values and a physical dissolution of the Schengen area and protect the external borders of the European Union. Within the framework of the rearrangement, Slovenia is accepting refugees and asylum seekers according to its capacities. I assess that we have not yet made sufficient steps regarding the common refugee policy to be reasonably able to assume that managing this issue can no longer paralyse us. The more we focus on a joint European policy, the fewer unilateral actions will be undertaken by individual countries. We should make an effort.

On the role and significance of NATO.
It is important for Slovenia that NATO provides collective security. Since the fall of the Warsaw Pact, its changes and adjustments, and even its obsolescence, have been discussed. Slovenia considers NATO an important factor of our security and a suitable military power for the defence of allied interests. In this context, and together with other member countries, it will eagerly seek ways for its modernisation.

On the neighbouring issues.
Slovenia is aware that its European and foreign policies begin with its relations with neighbouring countries. I assure you that we will do everything in our power to ensure that these relations are sincere, friendly and comprehensive.
Regarding relations with our four neighbouring countries, I am particularly concerned about maintaining good and friendly relations with Croatia.
It is evident that the different positions adopted by both countries as per their duty to respect the decision of the Arbitral Tribunal on the course of the border pose a very large problem. Slovenia expects the Arbitral Tribunal to give its final decision, which will be binding for both countries in accordance with international law. This will be uncompromising. The compromise was the arbitration agreement itself. As a friend, a neighbour and as someone who will always be there irrespective of the circumstances that occur, I advocate that we do everything to preserve and further nurture this friendship and neighbourliness to the benefit of both nations. I thus urge that both sides refrain from all conduct and statements which could worsen the relations in the expectation of the decision of the Arbitral Tribunal.
We must do everything to preserve the mutual trust that was very hard-earned and originated from signing the arbitration agreement, and which relaxed and deepened relations between both neighbouring countries.

On conditions in the Western Balkans.
With the Slovenian-Croatian Initiative, Brdo-Brijuni Process, Slovenia also dedicated special attention to this issue, and was relatively successful with all countries in the region, Europe and the world. It is evident that complications involving the arbitration agreement diminished the moral authority of Slovenia and Croatia to manage this particularly sensitive project.
Furthermore, an important example of how neighbouring countries should resolve territorial and other sensitive issues would thus be ruined. I want to say that the outcome of enforcing the arbitration agreement will have a significant impact on the situation in the Western Balkans. I wish for the impact to be beneficial.

I think that we should strive more intensively to prevent the Western Balkans from becoming a breeding ground for geopolitical conflicts between Russia and the West; among other things, such conditions would lead to a situation in which the unity of Bosnia and Herzegovina would be questionable. Slovenia is of the opinion that by updating the Dayton Agreement and supporting the amendments to the constitution, this central Western Balkan country should strive for the Euro-Atlantic perspective.

On fundamental values of our European and foreign policies.
More than ever before we emphasise the necessity for the peaceful resolution of all disputes, mutual respect, tolerance and the need for a greater awareness regarding social equality. I believe that the concept of sustainable development lacks sufficient understanding of this social dimension. I consider that the increase in social inequalities and global awareness of this injustice is the key trigger for instability in the modern international community.

And finally.
Slovenia has no challenging political issue with any country in the world, which could not be solved peacefully by means of dialogue. Slovenia strives to have as many friends as possible around the world. Our European and foreign policies will continue to be an instrument of peace, friendship and overall cooperation with all peoples and countries.

Like many other countries, the Republic of Slovenia will also dedicate a considerable amount of attention to good relations with neighbours, the deepening of trust and cooperation with countries in both central integrations, the European Union and NATO, and relations with strategic partners. We will strive to deepen our relations also with those countries which, so far, are for various objective reasons far from our political and economic attention.

Maintaining international peace and security is our first priority. We are obliged to conduct this task decisively and wisely also in the name of our children and grandchildren.

Your Excellencies,

allow me to add that this year Slovenia marks the 25th anniversary of its international recognition and the establishment of diplomatic relations with key partners in the international environment. On 22 May, we will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the membership of the Republic of Slovenia in the UN. I would like to express my sincere gratitude on this occasion to all who, in Slovenia and in partnership countries, contributed to this diplomatic peak regarding Slovenia’s independence at the time.

Your Excellencies,

To conclude, please convey again my best wishes at the beginning of this year to the leaders of your countries, with my sincere hope that we will enhance our mutual trust, friendship and cooperation for the benefit of the people we represent.